Welcome to our December issue!
We’ve come together during this special time of year to talk about the most festive of topics, Murder. It’s as old as humanity itself and finds its way into our work. So stay tuned for some writing advice and some fantastic fiction pieces that focus on this dark, yet integral topic.
The Amuse Bouche Review Team
Feature: How to Kill a Character (Guest: Sarah (Sally) Hamer) Writing Advice
Devil’s Due (Excerpt) (Aedyn Brooks) Fiction
How to Get Away Without Murder (Melissa “Yi” Yuan-Innes) Essay
The Tale of Ollie Blackwood (Norm Boyington) Fiction
A Word About Jonah (A.P. Miller) Fiction
Slow Burn (Renée Gendron) Fiction
Interview: K.F. Jones Author Interview
Interview: Louise Sorensen Author Interview
Recent Videos from AMBR Contributors (December 2020)
Team Showcase from AMBR Contributors (December 2020)
Flash Fiction Contest from AMBR Contributors (Contest Announcement)
How to Kill a Character
by Guest Contributor, Sarah (Sally) Hamer (@hamerse)
There are right ways and wrong ways to kill a character in a fiction story. And, even if we’re working with non-fiction and telling a true story, we might still need to determine how to tell how a character will die. We often have characters that, for one reason or another, need to be left behind.
Characters aren’t just there for the fun of it. They each play a very specific part in a story, and archetypes can help us tell that story.
A Mentor teaches the lesson, then goes away, because dying is common for this archetype. After all, would Luke have been able to grow into the man he becomes if he’d had Obi-Wan to tell him what to do all the time? He had to die so that Luke would depend on himself in ways he wouldn’t if Obi-Wan had physically been there.
We know from the beginning of Charlotte’s Web (at least, some of us know!) that the spider, Charlotte, will die, because few small critters like her live very long. But she lays a groundwork of love and compassion for Wilbur, one that resonates through humanity also. (Can you tell I love this book?)
Best Friends can also be mentors but the difference in identifying them is usually a Best Friend is on a more equal footing than the Mentor. In so many words, a Best Friend learns as well as teaches the Hero/ine.
A good example is Goose in Top Gun. Maverick is much more accomplished at flying than Goose but Goose has a wisdom that Maverick doesn’t. He gives Maverick advice, mostly to stop taking risks that can get them both killed. But that advice isn’t taken, so Goose has to die to teach Maverick to deal with his demons.
Rue (Hunger Games) is a mentor when she shows Katniss the tracker jacker nest and suggests that Katniss drop it onto the enemies below. But Rue is helpless against the more experienced and deadly career tributes and dies at their hands. This leads Katniss to a defiance she previously had only dreamed of.
We rarely see a hero/heroine archetype die because the story wraps around them and convincing an audience to accept that death has to be skillfully planned and executed. For instance, Maximus in Gladiator has one goal – to go home to be with his wife and son. But circumstances change in the Call to Adventure when Maximus is captured and sold to the gladiator school, after being told his family is dead. His main goal doesn’t change, it morphs into saving the Roman Empire from a wicked Commodus. He can walk away (escape) at any time and, if his wife and son had still been alive, may have done so. But, since that can’t happen, he accepts his fate. In the last scene as he is dying, he walks through his wheat fields in Spain and his wife and son run to meet him. So he achieves his original goal, just not in the way he, or the audience, expected.
Richard Gere’s character, Jack, in the 1993 movie, Sommersby, also has a choice. Actually, Jack’s doppelganger, Horace, took Jack’s identity. Horace will be hung for a murder he didn’t do and, simply by telling the truth, would be released. But that would steal his soul, since he’s become the man he wanted to be and telling the truth would undo everything he’d accomplished.
Both of these stories are well crafted, with the inevitable death of both heroes hard to watch (at least for me!) but a completely satisfactory ending. Any other outcome for either character would destroy their integrity.
The Villain archetype dies all the time, since we have to slay the dragon. But once this archetype is dead, the story often is over. So, normally, the Villain dies near the end of the story, as a result of the Hero/ine’s courage and fortitude.
President Snow and District 13’s President Coin are both villains whose goals are in direct opposition to Katniss. So their almost simultaneous deaths at the end of the trilogy are completely in keeping with the horror they’ve both planted and reaped. Power has been their only goal and they both are stripped of it in one moment, through Katniss’s strength and resolve.
The same scenario happens in the Harry Potter series, with the twist of the hero, Harry, “dying” to remove himself as a horcrux. Then, when Voldemort is finally vulnerable, Harry is able to bring him down.
There are other archetypes that can die, for many different reasons. But there’s a time and place to kill a character to help make the story more real and create the most impact. We just have to find it.
Deciding why and when to kill a character takes some thought:
- Why do you think the character should die?
Keep in mind that you’ve invented this character and there’s a role he or she must play. There must also be a reason to get rid of that character, which must be well orchestrated. Carefully consider whether killing off a character is really a too-easy way out of a story conflict. Maybe that character can stir up extra trouble in the story, leading to a stronger plot, if he or she sticks around for a while. I read a story several years ago where the captain of an ocean-going ship was the heroine’s fiancé. She got into a lot of trouble while he was gone and really needed him. Another man came to her rescue and she fell in love with him instead. So, when the captain died at sea, the path to her new relationship was very simple. Should it have been? Would it have been better for the fiancé to come home and for her to make a hard choice between the two men? (Of course, the romance writer in me would have liked to see that choice. But that’s just me.)
- When does a character need to die?
Every story is different. For instance, a mystery often needs to have a dead body early on and we only get to know that character through other peoples’ eyes. There can be other bodies along the way, but each death needs to be carefully planned and HAS to make sense.
In a heart-rending true story about a loved one’s death, the protagonist is usually someone who is deeply involved with the dying person, so the decision about when comes down to where it will impact the reader the most. In Ray, the story about Ray Charles, the death of his younger brother impacted his entire life. So, does it work best at the very beginning? Or in the middle? Or at the very end? My personal preference for the “right place” is usually smack-dab in the middle in a story like this, since I like to get to know my character before I find out what drives him or her. But you may like it somewhere else and, as long as it makes sense and impacts the reader, it will work.
- What is the best way to kill someone?
There are thousands of ways to actually “do the deed.” Do your research! A poorly conceived murder or natural death is a real turnoff as those of us who watch the crime-solving series know all too well. Make the reader believe! It is so important to get it right.
Ultimately, you can kill any character you choose. It can be a very cathartic and enjoyable process, especially if you don’t like a character. But impacting the reader with a death, even of a villain, can make a book immensely better.
What book or movie where a character is killed off is your favorite? Why?
I wish to express gratitude to the giants whose shoulders I stand on and who taught me so much about the writing craft. I would list every one, if it were only possible.
Sarah (Sally) Hamer is a lover of books, a teacher of writers, and a believer in a good story. Most of all, she is eternally fascinated by people and how they ‘tick’. She’s passionate about helping people tell their own stories, whether through fiction or through memoir. Writing in many genres – mystery, science fiction, fantasy, romance, medieval history, non-fiction – she has won awards at both local and national levels, including two Golden Heart finals.
A teacher of memoir, beginning and advanced creative fiction writing, and screenwriting at Louisiana State University in Shreveport for almost twenty years, she also teaches online for Margie Lawson at www.margielawson.com. Sally is a free-lance editor and book coach at Touch Not the Cat Books, with many of her students and clients becoming successful, award-winning authors.
by Aedyn Brooks (@aedynbrooks)
“Forgive me, Father, for I’m about to sin.”
The dark, ancient confessional creaked as Michaela Herald knelt and waited for the priest to relay her next assignment. As an assassin, confessionals proved to be an effective way to pass information.
Acrid sulfur stung her nostrils, making her gag. The rotten-egg stench could only mean one thing: Satan himself had arrived.
Beelzebub typically delegated delivering his messages to a lower demon disguised as a priest.
Today must be special.
“You disappoint me.” Satan’s deep vibrato rumbled through the oak wall and through her chest. “Again.”
Selling her soul to the Devil was less than a stellar idea, but at the time it was a lifeline. “Hey, ‘Bub. How ya doin’?” She smiled. He hated the nickname.
He exhaled, sending a puff of hot, foul smoke through the fleur-de-lis patterned panel, where secrets were whispered and lies were told. “Your orders were clear.”
She shrugged a shoulder. “What are you going to do? Kill me?” Would he finally grow tired of her teasing, failures, and end her life? Would it be painful? She swallowed the fear tightening her throat.
The oak panel wall burnt away like ash devouring paper, revealing Satan in his full glory. His smoke-blackened, red flesh held an odor all its own. Death. Boiled blood. Burnt oil. Michaela held her breath, biting back bile, glad she hadn’t eaten breakfast.
Satan uncurled his massive frame, standing inside the tight box, the tops of this horns scraped the confessional box’s ceiling, forcing him to hunch his head. He loomed over her, intimidating her with his obsidian eyes. His junk hung in front of her face. Uncircumcised. As thick and smelly as the rest of him. Her eyes lowered to his goat-shaped hind quarters that ended in black hooved feet. Ash caked between cloven toes.
Michaela stood. At five-eleven, taller in her Doc Martens, she came to his chest and wasn’t as intimidated if she’d continued to kneel.
Satan curled his tail around his shoulder, the spear-tipped end came within inch of her left eye.
She focused her attention on his brass nipple rings. It was easier to look there than into his bottomless, black eyes.
His muscular arms ended with meaty hands, tipped in clawed fingers. He held up the scroll she’d signed seven years ago with the blood that dripped from her wounds. The yellowed parchment dangled in front of her face. Satan pointed a thick claw at a red-glowing phrase. “You agreed to kill the subjects of my choosing.”
Her mind jumbled making it impossible for her to make sense of the fancy curved lines, twisting into unrecognizable symbols; scribbles on a page mocking her dyslexia.
Seeing that contract again only reminded her of how weak she’d been. “I’d be happy to live up to my end of the bargain if you’d give me a copy of my contract to read, so I could understand what was expected of me.”
He huffed, spitting diesel fumes in her face. She coughed. His claw slid down the length of the page, where the letters diminished into a size two font. “Clause forty-five. The party of the third part.” He dug his pointy nail into her collarbone. “That’s you. Shall not demand a copy.” Poke. “Of said.” Poke. “Contract.”
How convenient. She lifted her head to stare him in the face and wished she hadn’t. His deep underbite gave him a menacing boxer-like jaw. Thick black fangs rose out of his protruding jaw, curling at the sides of his wide nostrils. Horns wrapped around his head on each side of his ears. They were pointy and sharp, honed white at the tip. “Without a copy, I’m unable to understand exactly what you need from me. I’ve told you before. I can’t read when you’re standing over me, demanding I obey.”
He gripped her chin, forcing him to look into his eyes. She swore she saw a fire burning in their depths. “Do as you’re told.” The corner of his lips curled. “And you get to live another day. Simple as that.” He let go of her chin and snapped his fingers, chomping his teeth in rapid succession—a nervous habit that annoyed her.
Michaela tried to grab the parchment from his hand. Her fingers swooshed through the air as though it were a dream. She tried again, yielding the same result. The paper reshaped, in front of her face.
Satan’s laughter echoed around the small chamber. Spittle dribbled from his bottom fangs. He stopped as suddenly as he began. “You failed, Michaela, and because of that, you now owe me four more deaths.”
Her heart dropped to her toes. Tears welled in her eyes. She couldn’t show weakness. Weakness gave him power. She’d be damned if she’d give him more than he’d already taken. She blinked back her tears, taking in a steadying breath.
He flicked his wrists, coiling, closing the scroll. It disappeared.
“You brought this on yourself. Your contract extends every time you disobey.” He paused, leaning closer to her face. “The second you didn’t kill Charles Grimly, when you chose to disobey, you knew you’d owe me more.” He exhaled so hard she closed her eyes. “I believe you rather enjoy working for me.”
Michaela waved her hand in front of her face. “Dude. You need a mint.” She hid her pain behind insults.
“Why didn’t you kill Grimly?”
“If I’d done that, where would the justice be for his victims? I thought of a win-win sol—”
He hissed, growled, red salvia dribbled, as he stomped his hoof.
“You want him dead? Kill him yourself.” She smirked and folded her arms. “You have resources in prison. Have one of your cronies shank him.”
Satan lowered his voice. “That wasn’t our bargain.”
He never wanted her to kill the good people—only those that society wanted dead, too. Serial killers, pedophiles, and the occasional abusive husband that tortured his wife and children. That perplexed her to no end and made it hard to refuse taking assignments. Why would he want them dead? It made no sense. It was like hell was in desperate need of demented souls.
Michaela had lost her blood lust somewhere between Dallas and Phoenix on an assignment where little boys had been kidnapped and left mutilated. She wanted justice instead of killing a monster. It was the first case where she’d handed over solid evidence to local authorities. A jury of their peers decided their fate. Not her. It was the right thing to do for those that had suffered. In essence, she’d grown a conscience, and begged God have mercy on her soul.
“Be warned. Do not fail me again.”
“How many Hail Mary’s do I have to say? A couple ‘Our Father’s?” She loved goading him. After all, what did she have to lose? She had nothing. Literally, nothing. A backpack held a set of clean clothes, a few toiletries, flint to build a fire, and a tarp she’d make into a tent when needed. Her prized possessions were an artist’s sketchpad and a few charcoal pencils. She had clothes on her back, shoes on her feet, a coat from the lost-and-found, and a beanie she’d scavenged from the side of the road. No computer. No cell phone. Enough money she’d earned from selling her drawings and odd jobs to get the essentials in life, and her trusty switchblades tucked in her pockets. She existed so far off the grid, she was a ghost.
She lived off the land, knowing God would provide for her every need. Perhaps that’s what pissed Satan off – she still believed in God…and she didn’t fear the Devil…much.
The oak wall returned in front of her face. Satan returned to his seat. She knelt and waited for her orders.
“Seems you have a weakness for children.”
Boy, did she ever.
“There’s a doctor, not far from here that’s been experimenting on children, and so far, his actions have killed six. You are to kill the doctor.”
“I said, kill the doctor.” Satan smacked his hand against the wall. “No questions asked.” His teeth chattered. “You are not to contact local law enforcement. You are not to save anyone’s life. That’s an order,” he growled. “Kill the doctor. That is your sole objective. Do you understand?”
“Got it, ‘Bub.”
“Good. If you deviate from my plan, I will kill all the children in White River. Remember that when you’re thinking of justice.”
by Melissa “Yi” Yuan-Innes (@dr_sassy)
Scorpion Scheme, my newest medical thriller, is unusual in that, for the first time, Dr. Hope Sze doesn’t directly witness a murder, or even an attempted murder.
When she rushes to save an elderly man’s life after a mass trauma, she assesses his airway, breathing, and circulation and feels the nail embedded in his skull, but no one dies directly on the page.
Hope stabilizes Mr. Becker. Later, her fiancé,Tucker, is intrigued by the possibility that this man might hold the key to buried treasure, the Kruger Millions.
Throughout the novel, the killer largely moves off-screen.
There are two reasons my brain swerved in this direction. First of all, I read a Louise Penny novel that started off with a mysterious invitation and got excited. What a great idea! I’ve never done a treasure hunt! Let’s run with that.
Secondly, I prefer to avoid focusing on death in 2020. Yes, I work as an emergency physician on the front lines, and yes, Eastern Ontario has been relatively spared so far. The worst of COVID-19 is yet to come. We are gritting our teeth as we fight both the pandemic and willful ignorance.
So in my off-hours, when I don Hope and Tucker as my alter egos, I’d rather search for the myth of $500 million dollars in buried gold. And twerk to “Walk Like an Egyptian.” And walk through the Cairo night, eating shawarma with its juice dripping down my arms.
All of those scenes contain clues. Murder and betrayal still thread their way through Scorpion Scheme, but I hold back from any explicit gorefest.
Still, crime readers expect a crime and resolution. And 99 percent of the time, the crime is murder.
When I attended Bouchercon in Toronto, people debated whether it was ethical to use murder as entertainment.
Cozy aficionados believed that avoiding blood on the page meant that they could concentrate on the cerebral puzzle aspect instead of the death.
A noir advocate argued that a bloodless murder is more immoral. If you’re going to kill someone, show the blood. Don’t go into the living room and sip tea and chat about it.
I was the lone panelist who saw both sides.
I don’t avoid murder or glory in it. I tell the story. If it requires blood, I describe it. If it doesn’t, I won’t.
As a physician, unless the patient is palliative, my job is to intervene with death. I won’t cover it up with cats and doilies, and I’m not going to lovingly describe every spurt of arterial blood ’cause it’s my job to apply pressure and tie down the artery instead.
Hope Sze encounters more murderers than most police officers, but in Scorpion Scheme, she also gets to stay in a beautiful hotel suite and wear a little black dress.
Next year, she might get a little more gritty. But for now, she gets to waltz in the streets of Cairo before she captures the killers.
And that makes me very happy.
Link for Scorpion Scheme: https://windtreepress.com/portfolio/scorpion-scheme/
by Norm Boyington (@NormBoyington)
The rain was uncomfortably persistent as it ran down the round face of Ollie Blackwood. His thin brown hair working as a conduit for the water that trickled from its tapered tips and into his tired blue eyes. The weather appeared to be in the midst of transition, encircling the modest gathering of gawkers. A thin covering of snow had fallen throughout the night salting the cold, wet ground; however, at this instant, the rain was winning the contest, rapidly thawing what was left of the snowfall. Together the small group stood in unison, anxiously waiting for what was inevitable. Some watched the heavy steel door of the gaol, willing it to open. Some stared at the thick hemp ropes which lay at the foot of the tree of retribution.
Ollie thinly smiled to himself while he took in the view. Soon his misery would be ended. The gaol he fixed his eyes upon happened to be the only brick structure in the county. Those that were imprisoned there had already been convicted, and their discipline decided. Ollie rarely attended the public punishments. He found them difficult to watch, to hear the screams for mercy while the unscrupulous were punished in new and unusual ways. He never liked the jeers and merriment of the villagers. That brand of cruelty hit too close to home for him. Some viewed Ollie as an easy mark. He was awkward in how he carried himself, in the way he spoke, so people tended to keep him at arm’s length. Yet here he stood with a tight-lipped smirk as he watched the heavy steel door for any signs of movement. Right now, he felt as one with the community, and it was a novel feeling, to be sure.
Daybreak broke, and the assembly’s anticipation was noticeably mounting, including Ollie’s, who, for once, was in his life, felt in sync with the villagers. He more than anyone desired to see the suffering of Roman Alby. He grimaced at the thought of the man. Roman was one of those who others aspired to be around, even if he was cruel and ruthless. He had an aura about him where individuals would go out of their way to be accepted by him. If Roman didn’t like you, then neither did anyone else.
Ollie worked as a powder man at the iron mine outside of town. His profession was a good one; furthermore, it paid well. In three years, he worked his way from general labourer to a place where he was responsible for all the blasting for the mine. He was essential to the mine’s operation, yet Roman, one of two lead hands, picked at him horribly. It’s astounding just how vile and heartless a person with a little bit of power can be. Roman made Ollie’s days wretched. The man would go out of his way to make his life one of despair and suffering, and for that, Ollie hated him right to his very core.
What happened that night was more of an opportunistic fluke than anything else. It was late in the evening. Ollie had tarried behind at the mine, plotting out positions for the charges that were to be detonated the next morning. After feeling satisfied with how things looked, he began the lonely trek homewards. He walked the dirt road that led through town. The only drawback of this route was it also ran right by his nemesis dwelling. Roman lived with his wife Ruth in a small board and batten shack just outside of the village. It was said that the couple quarrelled frequently. There were times Ruth would appear in town beaten and battered, but nothing was ever mentioned of it publicly. She mostly looked sad, was Ollie’s thoughts on it. Tonight the home was curiously dark. Most folks should be eating supper, Ollie mused. He couldn’t help but slow his steps and peer through the window and the door that stood ajar. It was then that he noticed Ruth laid out on the hardwood floor. Her arm looked to be set at an awkward angle. Slowly, Ollie approached the doorway and cautiously knocked upon its frame. He called her name out softly.
The sound of the big steel door opened with a bang, bringing Ollie back to the present. He waited, watching, barely breathing, then without aplomb Roman was shoved into view. Ollie couldn’t help but grin when the two guards knocked him to the ground. They kicked him and shouted for him to get to his feet; this sent a shiver of satisfaction running down Ollie’s back. At the first sign of violence, the crowd began to murmur their approval. It didn’t take long for them to start cheering and crying for justice. Ollie let their exuberance run through him. He couldn’t be more thrilled with the exhibition going on before him.
The execution of Roman Alby barely took three minutes. He was dragged forcibly up to the tree where all punishments were met out. He cried for mercy and screamed that he was being framed while the guards tied his hands tightly together with the thick rope that hung from the branch high overhead. He even went as far as to cast the blame on Ollie, but everyone knew that Roman beat his wife. They also had born witness to his unnatural hatred for the powder man. Yes, everyone had witnessed his baseless cruelty at least once in their lives. So when Roman was hoisted by his hands to hang from the tree of retribution, nobody watching felt remorse for the big man. Nobody cried foul when the guards snapped the bones of his arms as they struck him with the heavy iron bars they always carried with them. Nobody turned away while he screamed in pain as he dangled helplessly from the tree. The crowd cheered through the whole of it as he was beaten and left for dead. His broken body would be left for days, hanging lifeless for the crows to peck at their leisure.
Ollie sighed as he wandered back into town for a celebratory drink, sad that Roman succumbed to his injuries so quickly. He wished the suffering would have lasted much longer. His mood only lifting upon the sight of the town’s saloon. Sitting at the bar with his glass in hand, Ollie smiled, thinking back to that fateful night and how he found Ruth barely breathing and bleeding profusely from the self-inflicted cut to her wrist. It appeared she had smashed a glass dinner plate and used one of the shards to do the deed. He remembered finding Roman unconscious polluted drunk, sitting in his chair by the unlit fireplace.
When the authorities arrived at the house of Roman and Ruth Alby, they pronounced Ruth dead. Upon counting, it was found she had sixty-three separate stab wounds, many of which showed to be on her hands and arms as if she had been defending herself. A bloodied empty bottle of liquor was discovered near the chair where Roman was found, still too inebriated to stand on his own. Lastly, it was said his clothing was yet covered in the blood of his wife, and a long knife-shaped shard of glass rested upon his lap. Roman was arrested and judged the following morning and pronounced guilty of butchering his wife. He was detained for one more day at the gaol, and in that time, he had only one visitor. The signature in the registry was signed neatly in black ink. Master Ollie Blackwood, March twenty-three, nine o’clock post meridiem.
by A.P. Miller (@Millerverse)
DISCLAIMER: This story is based on true events. Names and specific details have been changed out of respect.
March 2008 – Institution, Pennsylvania.
The Pennsylvania winters were going to be the death of Adam Spears. By the time March rolled around, it could still get cold enough to dump a pile of snow on any hope for consistent sunshine. The grounds would have thawed just enough to get massacred when the plow trucks would come to address the latest “you’ve gotta be kidding me” snowfall, and the banks of snow refusing to melt were dirty to match the outlook of the small town Adam lived in.
Adam paced around his apartment — he had the freedom of a weekend off, but the weather wasn’t nice enough to comply with a restorative few days off. His balcony would be perfect to enjoy a cup of coffee on, but the unrelenting snowfall would have a say in that. Cabin fever was inflicting stress cracks on Adam’s psyche.
His phone rang. It was the special ring-tone he had placed for his mother. If anyone were to blame for Adam’s contempt for his homeland, it was surely Mother. Adam’s father was a man who traveled across the country for work. If anyone were equipped to settle his family in a warmer climate, it was Father. Had Adam had more time with his father, perhaps he could have convinced him to relocate the family to a climate more conducive to teenage morale, but his untimely death prevented that from happening. Adam’s sense of homesteading would be limited to fifty square miles surrounding his homeland.
“Mama, how are you?” Adam asked, answering the phone.
Mother sobbed, tried to say something coherent, but couldn’t force the idea through the barrier of vocalized despair.
“Mom, are you alright?” Adam asked again, with concern.
“Did you hear?” Mother asked, sniffing deeply.
“Hear about what? What happened?” Adam asked.
“Do you remember Cecilia Chambers?” Mother asked.
“Yeah, she’s Jonah Crenshaw’s mom,” Adam said.
Mother started sobbing again. Mother and Cecila Crenshaw had always been friendly. When Adam and his sister moved out on their own, Mother and Cecilia became a lot more social, because Mother occupied her time by working at the local social club as a bar-tender. Perhaps not the best of friends, but Mother was a social woman with a big heart, and she liked seeing Cecilia at work because Cecilia was fun.
“Did Cecilia do something, Mama?” Adam asked.
“Cecilia is dead, sweetheart,” Mother said.
“Oh no!” Adam exclaimed. Adam met Cecilia a few times when Adam was on the same track team with Jonah. Cecilia was a bold personality, always telling it like it was. She cussed, had no qualms about telling someone exactly how she felt about them, but also showed as much love as she showed aggression. Adam felt bad because his mother felt bad.
“She was murdered, honey,” Mother said, then collapsed into another fit of hysterical sobs.
“Did you say ‘murdered,’ Mama?”
“Yes, murdered,” Mother said between sobs. “Jonah was arrested this morning, he’s the number one suspect.”
Adam didn’t say anything for a minute while Mother continued to sob. When Adam and Jonah were on the track team, Jonah had been a little different, but not the “murder your mother” type. Adam believed if he and Jonah would have stayed on the track team they may have even been friends.
The years that followed that one season of unsuccessful track were story after story about some new level of low Jonah had reached. Jonah’s sophomore year of high school had become intermittent between stays in juvie. When Adam was a senior, Jonah drove a car through the window of the local pawn shop and tried to make off with some electronics, but ended up getting arrested before he could make it out of the parking lot. When Adam had graduated high school, he didn’t keep track of Jonah’s criminal record, until that very conversation with his mother.
“Are you alright, Mama?” Adam asked. There was a part of him that wanted to ask for details, out of disbelief that Jonah could have reached such a low, but those kinds of details bothered Mother. It was best he didn’t ask.
“Yeah, I’ll be okay,” Mother said.
“Is there a service planned?” Adam asked.
“I don’t know. There is going to be a memorial at work for the members, but I don’t know about anything more than that.”
“I’m really sorry about your friend, Mama. She was a good woman,” Adam said. There was more he wanted to say, to offer words that made heads or tails of the senselessness, but the words escaped him.
“Listen, if there is something on your mind you need to tell me, just say it. Not right now, but ever. Don’t let things bottled up inside you or feel like you can’t tell me things. If I’m wrong, I can’t fix it if you don’t tell me,” Mother said.
“I will Mama,” Adam said.
Mother had to go, she just needed some time to cry it out.
There was a pit in Adam’s stomach after hanging up. He couldn’t wrap his head around someone feeling there was no other option but matricide.
The days following released more details of the murder that rocked a sleepy mountain town. Jonah had stolen a significant sum from Cecilia and Cecilia threatened to call the police to get it back. In the middle of the night, Jonah broke into his mother’s house and slashed her throat with a pair of scissors. While Cecilia was bleeding out and gasping for air, Jonah put one of those religious shows on to comfort her.
Jonah Crenshaw was found guilty of first degree murder. He would have received the death penalty if not for family members pleading two deaths in the family would be too much.
Jonah Crenshaw will spend the rest of his life in prison with no hope for parole.
by Renée Gendron (@ReneeGendron)
Genevieve Beauchamp stepped out the twenty-metre-high industrial drum, covered in a fine dust. She shook the dust free from her overalls and hair.
“How many more?” Laurie asked.
“One more, then I’m done.”
“Good,” Laurie said. “Our quarterly inspection is up this Friday. We need all drums to be clean. Factory-installed cleaned.”
“You can count on me.” Genevieve beamed a smile to her supervisor of three years. Laurie had an easy personality and a caring attitude. The best boss Genevieve ever had. With a little bit more enthusiasm, Genevieve would be up for a promotion in six months. She’d be out of the industrial cleaning division, and into the applied sciences division where she could directly apply her chemistry degree.
Everyone started at the bottom and worked their way up. That’s the way at the Eastern Ontario Chemical Company. Know the company from the bottom up, inside-out and backwards. That way when you led people, you understood their position, the requirements of the team, and what needed to be done to excel.
A boss who understood employees, isn’t that what each employee wanted? Genevieve certainly did.
“Hey, Gen.” Bobby shouted as he emerged from the vat next to her in his dark-blue coveralls. Light-grey powder dusted his light-brown beard, giving him the impression of a Christmas decoration—a younger Santa who stood in the snow. “Want to grab a beer after work?” His blue eyes shimmered like a falling star.
A beer? With Bobby? Listen to his husky voice all night? Have his firm body lean against hers as they watched a hockey game? She fumbled for words, unable to think of anything that wouldn’t make her appear like a love-sick fourteen-year-old who had been asked out on her first date.
“Sure.” A simple answer. The only one Genevieve could think of without sounding like a complete lovestruck idiot. “Let me clean this last vat and we can head out.”
His cheeks curved in a smile, causing deep laugh lines around his mouth. Something warm and delicious flashed in his eyes. Something that made her want to cross the thirty feet between them and wrap her arms around his neck and pull his mouth to hers.
Foolish. It was a beer. After work. She nodded, then inclined her head, and stepped into the twenty-metre-high chamber. She reached for her cleaning kit and took out a mop and scrubbed the ceiling until her shoulders ached. A shower of particles wafted on her. Once those settled, she washed the walls, removing the four-centimetre-thick sediment that accumulated after every production run.
Once the dust calmed, she swept the floor and placed the residue in a bucket. She hauled six buckets out of the industrial drum, then returned with a mop and fresh wash and washed the ceiling, walls, and floor. The potent detergent smell was replaced by the fresh scent of lemon.
Outside of the vat, she watched freshwater drip from the ceiling. Genevieve grabbed some towels and returned to vat. Soapy water fell onto her face, some of it onto her mouth. She clung to the possibility that this sudsy taste would soon be replaced by the salty kiss of Bobby and that the coolness of the water would be replaced by the warmth of Bobby’s body against hers.
One night. That’s all she needed to prove to him they could work. Her sense of humour would draw out his easy smile. His calmness would calm her nerves. They worked together. Knew the same people at work and socially. Bobby Lemieux was a year ahead of her high school. They grew up together. It had taken him twelve years to realise what she had known since grade nine—they were meant to be together.
Shoulders wet from the dripping ceiling, she ran her tongue over her lower lip, tasting his kiss. Cheeks cold from the fresh water to rinse out her vat, Genevieve all but sauntered out of the work area.
Bobby stood at the far end of the room, putting his equipment away. “I’ll shower and meet you at the lunchroom.” The seductive grin on his lips turned her insides into a puddle.
She waved to him, a cross between how the queen waves to her subjects and how a celebrity waves to her adoring fans. Both awkward and inappropriate gestures.
Genevieve entered the women’s changing room, shrugged off her work clothes and stood under the steaming shower. The persistent scent of industrial detergent wafted around her like talcum powder on a baby. Clean, hair brushed and tied back with a pair of combs, changed into a nice blouse with snug jeans, she went to the common area where Bobby waited for her.
He glanced up from his phone. A smile crept up his lips as slow as the sunrise, but as bright and promising as the new day. “Hey.”
“Hey.” She fell in beside him, uncertain if she should reach for his hand, kiss his cheek or keep her distance.
Laurie walked across the common area, raked her gaze over both of them, and smiled. “Have fun. And remember, whatever it is you two do tonight, you have to work tomorrow.”
Laurie strode to the manager’s office. She’d ask for a raise tonight. It was time. All of the performance evaluations of her team were exemplary. The product was selling very well. There were no safety incidents. There was no reason to deny her a raise, or at the very least extra paid vacation.
Her manager was on the phone with someone but bade Laurie to take a seat. Laurie sat down in the plush chair and glanced at the reports on her manager’s blotter.
She peered over and saw, upside down, a report that said ‘employees cleaning the vats are at higher risk than the general population of developing cancer.’ Laurie had seen similar internal reports from the company. Internal research that involved mice and monkey studies in which both were at seventy and eighty percent higher risk of developing lung, ovarian, intestinal, pancreatic or throat cancer. The rates of cancer were present regardless of the protective equipment placed on the animals or the air filters in their cages.
“You wanted to see me?” Laurie’s manager asked.
“Yes. My crew’s productivity is up twenty percent. I’d like a fifteen percent raise.”
“I’m not sure there’s room in the budget for that.”
“Make room. None of my crew use the protective equipment called for in the report.” She tapped her index finger on the scientific study on her boss’ desk. “I’m saving this department tens of thousands of dollars a month.”
Her boss adjusted her weight in her chair but remained silent.
“I know all of my employees’ doctors from here to Ottawa, went to the same high school as most. The others I know from my volunteer work and from the golf courses. Every time they mention the unusually high rates of respiratory issues with plant workers, I blame it on the winds coming from the States and their plants. I even dug up some reports on the internet about changes in allergies and how that’s affecting people. Fifteen percent for this year is cheap.”
“And what will your raise be next year?”
“Depends how many of my employees die.”
How old were you when you got the story telling bug?
I think it was probably when I started roleplaying in primary school. Most of us start of having someone else run the game but it’s a form of interactive storytelling. Eventually you graduate to influencing the direction of a story that someone else wrote, to running your own games and creating your own stories. I certainly didn’t get any encouragement at school.
Who were your earliest influences?
My earliest writing influences were mostly fantasy and sci-fi writers and there are too many to mention. A few highlights would be David Gemmel, Tolkien, Asimov, Pratchett, Heinlein, Enid Blyton, Ann McAffrey, Ursula Le Guin. And of course, the people who wrote games like Call of Cthulhu, D&D and comics like Judge Dredd, Rogue Trooper and Slaine.
As an adult, I got into erotica and read a lot of Black Lace and Nexus books back when trad was serious about romance and erotica publishing. I read a lot of Penny Birch, Anne Rice’s Beauty series and now I read widely in various romance sub-genres, from paranormal to academy to sci-fi but always steamy stuff.
Pancakes or waffles?
Pancakes but British ones which are thin and drenched in lemon and sugar, eaten around Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day as it’s properly known in the UK 😉 For a proper breakfast, it’ll be a full English fry up for me but I don’t eat black pudding (and if you Google what it is, you’ll probably soon realise why).
What types of things inspire your creativity?
I find being somewhere I can’t write down an idea helps. In the shower, walking around the shops trying not to be bored witless that sort of thing. I now make every effort to record ideas the moment I have something occur to me, because I’ve forgotten more good ideas than I’ve remembered. I can always not write a story but I can’t write it if I forgot it. Sometimes I have a broad synopsis that I like, or in others just a scene that comes quickly after a simple idea, and then there’s a whole conversation in mind before I’ve finished washing my hair. It should be noted I take really long showers so it doesn’t take seconds.
Discovery writer or plotter?
I’m a hardcore plotter. I can’t be doing with discovery writing. The thought of not knowing what my story is before I start writing just fills me with revulsion. I’d feel so uncreative if I couldn’t work out what the story was before I started writing.
That’s partly a joke because pantsers who get snooty about it, always fall back on accusing plotters of being uncreative. They phrase it as how it would make them feel uncreative or hampered. But really they’re just sneering at people, and should stop. Being a pantser is fine, but imagining for one second you are somehow a better creative and then being silly enough to verbalise that around other authors, just makes you obnoxious and wholly wrong anyway. So pro-tip. Don’t do that! Just say you have tried it, but couldn’t make it work for you. That’s fine. But then also don’t whine about how much redrafting you have to do and reject plotting.
I don’t have a great memory. If I had a great idea, and didn’t write it down asap, it would just go, and I think that’s important for plotters and pantsers alike. Got a scene in mind? Write it now. Don’t risk forgetting it. It doesn’t matter if it’s halfway through the book, or you don’t even know what the rest of the book is. Hardcore pantser, but realise you must have something happen in Act 1 to foreshadow something in Act 2? Then write it down. Just a single sentence so you can check you remembered to use that brilliant insight.
Tell us a bit about your process
As I’ve mentioned, I have folders full of ideas in all the genres I write in (erotica is not my only or primary genre). Even folders for genres I haven’t written in yet but might one day do. I’m not one of those readers who sticks to one genre, so I have ideas for lots of things.
At the start of 2020 and then again in September, I had a triage session for my story ideas and organised them into order of priority. Is it a strong market? How long will it take to write? Is this a half-finished series? Which of my ideas would be best to do next? Which series can I finish and get out of the way.
Currently I have the following to do just in erotica and romance. A sci-fi romance with a new co-author who has romance experience I lack, that’s a whole series we’ve planned (high priority). A fantasy romance under my own pen name and a series to back that up (low priority). A fantasy erotica series under my KF Jones pen name which will hopefully be successful by KF Jones standards, and will also test my understanding of the market for my solo romance series (medium). Finally, I have to finish my Amber’s Culinary Adventures Series, which is a short story series that acts as a companion to my current biggest erotica series, Her Lesbian Boss. I’ve just published A Handful of Candy which is a Halloween special, and will follow it up with a Christmas one, then an eight and final book which will feature the collaring ceremony for Amber (which in BDSM is a little like an engagement or a wedding – it’s a commitment between dominant and submissive).
My goal is to clear down my project queue and not start any more projects until I’ve done that.
Does pineapple belong on pizza?
Yes, but on my pizza not necessarily yours. I like deep pan pizza, for instance Pizza Hut. I don’t care about posh pizza or some imagined sense of authenticity. In the UK there are lots of Italian restaurants run by Italians (as in born, raised and trained there, not British people who had Italian grandparents). You can absolutely get authentic pizza, done by however that family does it but all I care about is does it taste really good. I’ll leave the weird hot pizzas, and the horrible pepperoni and pseudo meats and especially the fish to others. I want lots of cheese, a fairly plain sauce, top quality dough, and for it to be really indulgent. I like mushrooms, pineapple, peppers, chicken, onions, and rarely anything much more exotic than that. But you do you, just don’t try and put sweetcorn on my food or I’ll demonstrate those worn out chain restaurant cutlery sets can still penetrate your hand 😛
Tell us a bit about your current WIP? When is the release date? What drew you to tell this story?
My next KF Jones fiction is a fantasy erotica story in the harem Gamelit sub-genre. The hero is trapped in an ultra-realistic virtual reality online game and will assemble a harem of women (also players) as a typical adventuring party. But harem tends to be wish fulfilment, so they go on adventures, quests, acquire magical items and wealth, and of course, have a lot of sex. Gamelit is a huge and growing genre. Ready Player One is an example. It’s not all harem of course, anymore than all paranormal romance academy books are reverse harem. I hope to get it out in October as it’ll be fairly short and I’m 20,000 words in already so perhaps as much as halfway through. Ideally I’d write longer though so I might flesh out more in the first book than I originally intended. That’s right, it’s fully plotted, but I can still change the outline, and add any creative idea I want to.
I’m also excited to be working on my first non-fiction book, which will be aimed at erotica authors who want to use their writing to make some money. A sane amount, it’s not a get rich quick scheme. I believe it’s a great part-time job, that can blossom if you let it, and train you for new genres. I’m about 20,000 words into writing content for that and intend to write a series of books starting with a general one, then sequels that will give more detailed information on more advanced issues. Largely it’ll be of use to new writers, not just of erotica but other genres too in some respects. It’s all publishing and writing process information though, not a book on writing craft. I hope I can generate enough content to release one or two coherent, if slightly rambling, books before Christmas in that series.
What advice would you give to new authors?
The starving artist is a myth. There has never been a better time to be an author, and making a living is a well understood path. Your primary job is writing but you shouldn’t be querying trad publishers unless you’ve a very good reason. I know lots of authors who were trad, and are now hybrid or fully indie. There are reasons for that. The indie community will give you all the information you need for free. Their books on the subject will give it to you cheap. Their courses will give it to you efficiently. It’s much cheaper to start this business than anything. Also, whatever you think about book covers, you’re probably wrong. They’re not art for you to coo over like a puppy. They’re an image to make someone buy your book.
What resources do you suggest to authors?
Go to conferences when you are ready, finding your tribe (authors/editors/cover designers etc) is an enormous boost to your mental wellbeing, and networking has value. I know networking was awful at your old job, but you have a cool job now. The networking is making friends with people who understand you, so it’s like finding your bird watching club, or your board gaming group. But with money. Lots of ways to help you earn more money and reach more readers. And Writer’s Tears (a type of booze). Before that start with the indie author podcasts and YouTube channels. Many sources are on both formats and you can learn a lot, while doing the shopping or housework, or watching YouTube while eating your microwave meal.
Try these, and you’ll find the rest.
The Creative Penn. Chris Fox Writes. Self Publishing Formula. Self Publishing Podcast. Sell More Books Show. The Rebel Author Podcast. Writing Excuses.
KF Jones is an erotica and romance pen name of an author who writes full time in other genres. Or is supposed to, but keeps writing filthy stories for fun and less profit instead. Don’t do that. For reasons of privacy as well as the fact that the books feature all sorts of sexual orientations and pairings, KF Jones is just a pen name, doesn’t have a gender to claim because it’s hard to do that when you’re not real. The author does have a gender but hasn’t used it in a while, and mostly lives vicariously through books (even in the Before Times).
KF Jones is active on Twitter if you want to say hi or have questions about publishing or the books.
You can find KF Jones scribblings a bit at the following locations:
How old were you when you got the story telling bug?
I’ve told stories all my life, but for most of my life they were in picture form. I’ve sketched and painted since I could hold up a crayon, pencil, or paintbrush.
Then we had the Ice Storm of 1997, during which we were without power for nine days in the coldest part of the Canadian winter, had to clear a mountain of downed trees from our driveway, and keep the house from freezing with woodstove fires 24/7. This was a big deal. We live on a farm in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t sleep for the first seventy-two hours. We spent the days adapting to and dealing with no heat, no light, no running water, all because of no electricity.
At night, wrapped in blankets, I would settle into a comfortable chair near our wood stove. Staying awake all night to keep an eye on the fire, so the stove didn’t overheat or run out of wood, was not a problem. Because I couldn’t sleep anyway. I spent a lot of time looking out the window. There was no traffic. The telephone poles had broken like toothpicks from the weight of the ice on the lines, and the lines were down all over the roads.
The only sound was the crackling of the logs in the stove, the drifting of snow against the window, and the hum of a generator across the street in a Bell Canada electrical house. The only light was the moon, across that vast expanse of snow, and the green glow coming from that generator. The generator, by the way, was eventually stolen, and we lost our landline. Desperate times. By the third night awake, I was hallucinating, seeing wisps of white floating across the room in the darkness.
After that I couldn’t paint anymore. I simply could not bring myself to pick up a brush. My last painting, of my children at the beach, wasn’t quite finished, but only I could tell. To anyone else, it looked fine. I packed up all my painting supplies, gave the last painting to my daughter, and haven’t painted since.
I gardened for a few years. And then one of my sons invited me to join him in a Creative Writing class at the local college.
I caught the writing bug and never looked back. When I got serious about writing, I did what I thought writing was all about and wrote two books. One is not finished, the other is finished and edited, but not published. I believe my writing has improved since then and I want to revise it. That was when I discovered I don’t like writing books, but I do like writing short stories and novellas.
So I have many titles, plots, and MCs (Main Characters) and the dates of release are unknown. I do have a number of short stories and an Anthology of short stories published and available on Amazon.
Pancakes or waffles?
I like both, as long as I don’t have to make them. I am not a cook.
What type of things inspire your creativity?
Everything inspires my creativity. A story I wrote about a woman named Piper who saves the world, was inspired by serial killings at a nursing home.
‘A Sadness Runs through Him’ examines immortality, (published in Just a Minor Malfunction Magazine) and started as a Flash Fiction for @ChuckWendig ’s Twitter site.
‘Remorsals’ asks the question, do animals have souls.
I ponder situations and questions and write them into a story.
Discovery writer or Plotter?
Discovery writer for sure. I start off with a what if and the idea of an injustice.
How can I fix that? How else might this story have turned out?
What if a man could not die? What happens to him? How does he feel about it? Would living forever be as great as it sounds?
Tell us about your process.
When I start a story, I know the what if, and have a good idea of the beginning and the middle, or the beginning and the end. I can think of only two stories where I knew the whole story. I typed up ‘Miri’ (published in Just a Minor Malfunction, though revised from the original) in about two and a half hours. ‘Ragged Angels’ (published in my Anthology Duel Visions) was fairly long and took a few days.
For the first draft, I type up everything I know about the story. I probably don’t know where the story is going, but it’s about something I don’t like in the real world. I point out injustices, illustrate weaknesses that I perceive no one cares about, show that there is more to events than what we see. I don’t write about the stars of humanity, I write about the little people who are equally important but have been forgotten.
After I get down everything that I know, think, or can imagine about the story, I leave it for a few days and let it simmer in my subconscious.
This derives from two years of writing Flash Fiction from writer Chuck Wendig’s website prompts. He gave topics, genres, and word counts on a Friday, and the deadline was the next Friday. I wrote all kinds of stories, from Supernatural to Steampunk to Fantasy and possibly even Nonfiction, and learned a lot about writing from his prompts. I had to look up Steampunk in order to write the story. It’s one of many I aim to revise and self-publish someday.
On getting Chuck’s prompt, which was always a thrill, the first thing I did was open a file and title it. Once I have an open file with a title, my mind starts running scenarios. I don’t even have to think about it. After two days of idle thoughts, on Monday I would sit down and type up the nebulous story that was in my head. Over the week I’d refine it and by Thursday it would be finished. Having a deadline probably helps, and I strongly recommend Flash Fiction as good practice for beginning writers, experienced writers, and writers with writers block.
Does pineapple belong on pizza?
Only in Hawaii.
Tell us about your current WIP. When is the release date? What drew you to tell this story?
At the moment, my current WIP will be an article about Change and Growth aimed at writers, written for A Muse Bouche online magazine and due late October.
Aside from that, I am trying to decide whether to work on revising my book, ‘Dragon’ which was written and edited about four years ago, and maybe going ahead with self-publishing, or working on a 17K novella, about a witch.
Over the years, I’ve left old stories that weren’t quite there, that is not quite finished, or I wasn’t satisfied with them, in order to proofread, critique, or edit someone’s work, or write something new for an assignment. I really enjoy looking at other people’s work and it helps my own writing immensely. You can see the mistakes and problems with others’ work far easier than in your own, and you start noticing the same in your own work.
But when I hit a lull, I work on my backlog.
My story ‘Remorsals’ is a good example. I wrote it about three years ago, but was never satisfied with it. It’s gone through three endings and is finally finished and sitting on a publisher’s desk. I don’t know if it will be accepted or not, because the pivotal point in the story is a brutal event, but I will never have to work on it again, because for better or worse, it’s finished. Unless of course the publisher accepts it but requires changes. These usually aren’t too extreme.
I might add here that many of my stories are dark fiction.
I don’t recommend trying to write cheerful comedies if your muse, or the nightmares in your head, send you something else. I write what comes to me, and it’s often dark. I don’t know why some people write HEA (Happily Ever After) and some plumb the depths of hell, but that’s life.
What resources do you suggest to authors?
Some of the usual resources, like in-person interviews, are difficult to impossible these days with Covid. But for research there’s always Google, email interviews, You Tube, and the phone. Your local library is a good resource if it’s open.
Last but not least, there’s your imagination, which can take you where no one has gone before. ☺
You can find me on Twitter as @louise3anne
My Amazon link, showing most of my published stories, is https://www.amazon.com/…
Stephen Coghlan Author Interview – Renée interviews Stephen Coghlan about his writing, his inspiration, and his process.
Endings, the Good and the Bad – Renée, E.G., and D.W. talk about Endings. The good, the bad, the satisfying, and the frustrating.
U.L. Harper Author Interview – Renée interviews U.L. Harper about his writing, his inspiration, and his process.
Why Tropes Are Good – Renée, Crystal, A.P., and D.W. discuss tropes in storytelling and their benefits.
NaNoWriMo Week 3 Check-in – NaNoWriMo continues, and Renée, Crystal, A.P., and D.W. discuss their progress from week 3 of the 50,000 word trenches.
Sarah Sally Hamer Author Interview – Renée interviews Sarah Sally Hamer about her writing, her inspiration, and her process.
NaNoWriMo Week 2 Check-in – NaNoWriMo is here, and Renée, Crystal, and A.P. discuss things from week 2 of the 50,000 word trenches.
Chris Ritchey Flash Fiction Spotlight – Meet Chris Ritchey, the first winner of the AMBR Flash Fiction Contest. Here he reads his winning piece and has a short interview with Renée.
Marian L. Thorpe Author Interview – Renée interviews Marian L. Thorpe about her writing, her inspiration, and her process.
NaNoWriMo Week 1 Check-In – NaNoWriMo is here, and Renée, Melissa, Crystal, A.P., and D.W. discuss things from week 1 of the 50,000 word trenches.
We at A Muse Bouche Review are thrilled to announce our Flash Fiction Contest! Entries will be accpted until the 15th of the month, and the winner will be included in the following issue.
Please see our Contest Page for details, rules, and specifics.